Videos of ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, give viewers a pleasurable, skin-tingling sensation across their scalp and back of the neck — that some people find therapeutic, or even sexually arousing.
And this enigmatic sensation is often achieved by something as simple as YouTube creators whispering into a microphone, running their fingers through a hair brush — or eating a gherkin loudly.
Is it possible for a YouTube video to send you to sleep — or to give you a ‘skin orgasm?’
This might sound incredibly niche, but there’s a huge audience for those looking to get their skin-tingling fix. At present, there are more than 13 million ASMR videos on YouTube.
‘It’s intrinsically interesting that a million people will watch a video of someone licking something because it sounds pleasant.
‘ASMR existing just makes human beings more interesting’ — says James Heathers, a bio-signal post-doctoral research associate at Northeastern University.
Until recently, very little was known about the sensations derived from the audio-visual stimuli of ASMR.
In 2015, one of the first studies of ASMR appeared, from Emma Barratt and Dr Nick Davis at Swansea University. They found that 82 per cent of participants used ASMR to help them sleep and 70 per cent used ASMR to deal with stress.
Only 5 per cent access ASMR for sexual stimulation.
What’s also curious about the phenomenon is that only some people can experience ASMR in the first place. University of Winnipeg psychologist Dr Stephen Smith found that those who are predisposed to ASMR have an increased Openness-to-experience and Neuroticism, while those who can’t experience it are generally more agreeable and conscientious.
And the effects of ASMR can go beyond mere skin-tingling. Dr Giulia Poerio was the lead researcher in a University of Sheffield study that was the first of its kind to report the physiological changes that occur when individuals experience ASMR.
It found that ASMR individuals showed a reduction in their heart rate of around 3.14 beats per minute while watching these ASMR videos in comparison to non-ASMR individuals.
But even though interesting research is emerging about ASMR, it is still very much a new field of study, and a lot remains a mystery. For now, this spine-tingling sensation is evidence that the brain can supply the ultimate skin orgasm.